Not everyone starts out on the same playing field in life. I was blessed beyond measure to have the parents I was given. My father worked incredibly hard as an electrician all of his life. He would put in a full day’s work at the factory to provide for his family, then come home and often toss the baseball back and forth with me or watch one of my ball games. He worked hard all day and then continued to give – all for the sake of his family. I knew from watching my father that hard work would get you a long way in life.
Take a look at your hands. Maybe they’re holding this devotional in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, or maybe they’re holding your smartphone as you read this online. Think about where your hands have been, what they’ve done, who they’ve helped, how they’ve folded when you prayed, and the history they exhibit with each line, curve, or scar.
We believe it was on the very first Maundy Thursday, the night that Jesus gathered with His disciples and celebrated the Last Supper, that Jesus would end up going to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. It was there that Judas would come with the religious authorities to betray Jesus and have Him arrested. After that, our Bibles don’t tell us what happened to Jesus the rest of the night. However, the tradition of the early church says that Jesus was taken to the house of Caiaphas, the high priest.
As we approach Good Friday and remember the death of Christ, it might be helpful for us to imagine the thoughts and feelings of the first women to go to the Garden. They were the same women who had stayed by Him at the Cross. They saw the horrific pain He endured. They were there when He drew His last breath. They had seen the crucifixion and death of Jesus. They understood death to be the end.
Life is full of challenges. Each day presents its own obstacles. Some of these challenges seem to be more difficult than others. At times they are simple distractions, and at other times life’s problems seem insurmountable.
Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him vinegar, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
Luke 23:32 – 38
Mark Twain once said, “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”
Have you ever been to an elementary school open house? Sometimes I liken it to the Chisholm Trail cattle drive – lots of animals moving together… and smelly.
1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In Psalm 103, we’re promised, “As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.” God’s forgiveness is a beautiful thing, isn’t it? We mess up… God forgives! He even put it in writing that we would mess up. Ecclesiastes 7:20 tells us “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” These verses really boost me when I’m feeling remorse for something I’ve said or done. Sin catches us off guard, and we fall into its trap. Sin can also be calculated and intentional, without regard for consequences. I’ve been guilty of both!
I used to have a professor in seminary that always loved to tell us if God could take one of the worst forms of torture the world has ever known (crucifixion) and turn it into an occasion for bringing about the greatest good the world has ever seen (resurrection) in just a matter of three days, then what can God do with our daily challenges? Of course, this never means that God causes these bad things to happen, but it means that in the midst of the valleys of life, when we are faced with the impossible, we believe in a God who can still bring about good.